Los Angeles, CA — Today, Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez along with Councilmembers Kevin de Leon and Nithya Raman introduced a motion seconded by Councilmember Mike Bonin to create a Youth Development Department. There are 800,000 youth ages 10-25 in Los Angeles, 200,000 who currently live in poverty, with 68,000 disconnected from school and job opportunities, and over 3,000 who are homeless. Youth in historically underserved communities face barriers to success due to continued underinvestment. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation even more dire by amplifying what we already knew — access to resources and programs are not available equitably.
Looking back 10 years at 1.2 million arrests, persons ages 10 to 25 made up 32% of those arrests. During the pandemic, violence in Los Angeles and cities across the nation is skyrocketing. This time calls for innovative and bold solutions to achieve our shared public safety goals, addressing root causes and providing alternatives for young people. We can’t invest in suppression efforts alone.
“The greatest gains in public safety are achieved when we invest in people and we must act with urgency,” said Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez. “Investments in youth need to be commensurate with our investments in law enforcement. A centralized Youth Development Department focused on enrichment programs and job training as an early intervention strategy, will provide our most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods greater access to resources that were desperately needed pre-pandemic, but worsened by academic disruption and job loss.”
“Los Angeles needs to demonstrate that the city’s youth matter,” said Councilmember Kevin de Leon. The best way we can do that is by establishing a department that’s fully dedicated and responsive to the needs of our kids. Without it, we’re just paying lip service to a missing need in our city.”
“I’m very excited to see our city’s young people — especially those who are most vulnerable — at the center of our agenda,” said Councilmember Nithya Raman. “A Youth Development Department will allow the city to play a proactive role in investing in our city’s youth long before they might engage with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.”
“Without dedicated and focused resources on and for our youth, we squander their future,” said Councilmember Mike Bonin, who seconded the motion. “Whether it is unemployment, gun violence, climate change, or a lack of affordable housing, our youth are facing the tip of the spear. They must be allowed to define the agenda and shape the future.”
Currently, the City of Los Angeles has youth programming spread across 26 departments not including what is provided by LAUSD. These programs serve approximately 2.3 million youth in the City. Without a centralized approach there is no way to know if duplicate programs are offered, no metrics tracking the success or impact of the programs and no proactive sourcing of funds from non-City sources. The City needs a standalone department with a singular focus on youth ages 10-25, a population that has been overlooked in strategic investments and programming.
The department functions will include, but not be limited to, coordinating with regional agencies and providers of youth services, serving as a one-stop-shop for the public to access youth services, and auditing youth programs to ensure efficient use of City resources. Additionally, as the state divests from jailing young people in the Division of Juvenile Justice, we need the structured capacity to receive the investments proportionate to the population we serve.
The motion introduced today directs the City Attorney to prepare and present an ordinance to create a Youth Development Department. In addition, it directs the Chief Legislative Analyst, with the assistance of the City Administrative Officer, in consultation with the Youth Development Task Force, to define the duties, responsibilities, goals and objectives of the Youth Development Department.
To ensure funding for this department, the motion directs the City Administrative Officer to identify funding in the 2021-22 Budget to start the Youth Development Department. Furthermore, it directs the Chief Legislative Analyst to report back on the steps necessary to place a measure on the 2022 ballot to fund youth programming managed by a dedicated Youth Development Department within 15 days.
Los Angeles City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez serves as the City’s Chair of Public Safety and represents the 7th Council District in the Northeast San Fernando Valley which include the neighborhoods of Sylmar, Mission Hills, Pacoima, Lake View Terrace, Sunland, Tujunga, North Hills, Shadow Hills, and La Tuna Canyon.